Hello there, happy Tuesday to you all. I know it’s not the best day of the week – heck, I’d say it’s probably the worst – but what can you do other than try and enjoy it? My sentiments exactly. Anyhoo, moving on…
It seems that Arsenal have made a move for Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso. According to reports Arsene Wenger has made an inital approach for the Spaniard with the hope of having his £18 million valuation reduced to something around £10.5 million – the amount that Liverpool paid Real Sociedad four years ago. Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, however, is adament that Alonso will not be going anywhere unless Arsenal fork out the dough.
Speaking after his side’s win over Rangers on the weekend, Benitez said:
“I don’t think it will be easy [for him to leave]. The value of Alonso in the market will be really high. We are really pleased with him and we don’t want him to go unless we get a very good price.”
With Gareth Barry almost certain of moving from Aston Villa to Liverpool it’s understandable that Benitez and the club want to get as much as they can for Alonso. But is he worth £18 million? It’s hard to say.
On one hand he’s 26, in the prime of his career and already seasoned Premiership player. On the other, if Barry comes in to replace Alonso then Liverpool will have a player who will be on the fringes and who – you would have to think – would be looking for a change.
Should he look over for a moment and see the gaping hole in Arsenal’s midfield and the huge opportunity for him then I think he might look to move. Liverpool won’t want an unsettled player and while Wenger might not want to pay £18 million for the Spaniard I can definitely see him forking out £12-13 million for him.
Personally I think it’s going to happen. Call it a hunch, call it whatever you want, but I think Alonso will be Wenger’s last signing this summer. And a mighty good one it will be. Indeed, should Alonso’s move go through then I think Arsenal will have a stronger squad than they had last season.
In goals, Manuel Almunia spent most of last season trying to prove that he was a more able goalkeeper than the outwardly vocal Jens Lehmann. He eventually won, rewarded with the Number One jersey and the knowledge that he will start this season as the undisputed first-choice goalkeeper.
In defence the personnel is exactly the same as last time around but the crucial fact is that each and every player is a year older. That means William Gallas and Kolo Toure’s partnership will be stronger, Philippe Senderos and Johan Djourou will have more vital experience under the belts and Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna… well… there’s really nothing to worry about there!
Time is also a big factor with regards to the midfielders Wenger has at his disposal. Arsenal may have lost Alex Hleb and Mathieu Flamini but I’d argue that the signings of Samir Nasri, Xabi Alonso (if it goes ahead) and Aaron Ramsey combined with the continued development of Denilson, Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott means the squad have more depth and quality than last time around. There’s more variety too, something that will become vital as Wenger tries to balance his Premier League and Champions League challenges.
There is always the possibility that Alonso’s move does not go through and if that proves to be the case then Wenger needs to look at other options to plug that central midfield hole. It’s not vital to the starting team – indeed, I’m confident that Diaby can start in there – but it is vital to the depth and overall quality of the squad.
Update: I should add in here the revelation that is Jack Wilshere. 16 years old and has just been rewarded with a spot in the first team. Outstanding stuff.
Up front there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Vitally, Emmanuel Adebayor has decided to stay and should he remain fit then there is huge potential in him forming an awesome partnership with Robin van Persie. The few times the pair got to play together last season they were highly effective and some of the combination play they exhibited against Real Madrid suggests the pair are ready for a big year.
As for reserves, I’d argue that no other club in Europe has as much depth and variety in attack as Arsenal do. Nicklas Bendtner is a year older and looks ready to play a big part this season, Carlos Vela has shown he can also be relied upon while Eduardo will return around Christmas and give the side the deadly finisher they lacked at crucial points last season.
So all in all I think things are looking pretty darn good. To be completely honest, just writing all that has got me bloody excited! I hope reading it has made you feel the same way.
Before I go today I want to mention a couple of exciting Arsenal FC Blog-related bits.
Firstly, for all those that have been asking – I have finally set up a Premier League Fantasy Football league for all the readers of the blog. The code you will need to enter is 647594-126298 and you can join the league here. For everyone who entered last season you should be automatically invited back in again.
Secondly, after some careful negotiations my good friends at Pikum have come up with a special offer for the readers of this blog. They’re giving away a no strings attached £10 for users to throw around on any of the pikums that I have set up. They’ve also been nice enough to throw a bonus £15 in the pot for the Arsenal v West Brom Pikum that I have set up for Round One of the Premier League. Check out all the details here.
For those that don’t know, Pikum! is a really cool social betting site where you try and pick results on all sorts of sporting events. In their own words: “Pikum is a fun game you can play with friends, co-workers, or fellow fans to see who’s best at answering the question… What’s going to happen?”. For more details go to their website here. I should also remind you that you don’t have to bet with real money, you can bet just for fun as well.
OK – that’s it. Thanks for reading and have a smashing Tuesday.
Have your say on Xabi Alonso or the Arsenal squad by leaving a comment.